I kinda like food. I kinda like food A LOT! As much as I want to move to Nice (I’m such a beach bum), Lyon would be my second choice…or first…or second. Then again, if I move to Lyon I may never be able to fit into my swimsuit when I visit Nice. Then again, Nice is right in between Lyon and Paris, so it may be the perfect location. Anyway, you should visit Lyon. It is a wonderful, working French city. The people are friendly, the food is fantastic, the city is clean, beautiful, and unlike other European cities; Lyon functions. It functions incredibly well.
It also reminds me of NYC. Not NYC-NYC, but the way it is set up. If you are on the Rhone side, you’re in Queens/Brooklyn. Once you get to the island, you’re in Manhattan…and when you go to Vieux Lyon…you’re in NJ. Makes it much easier when you’re trying to get around…oh, yeah…the “grittier” part of Lyon…just happens to coincide with the Bronx.
Why am I so absolutely obsessed with Lyon?
- It is the gastronomy capital of France
- It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site
- Really cool museums
- If you’re a member of the house Lannister, you’ll love this city…it’s full of lions
- The city just works
Gastronomy: You say you like to eat? Then you need to go to Lyon. It all started in the 19th Century. At that time the city’s economy depended on silk workers. These silk workers would recharge in “bouchons” simple, modest establishments that served hearty cuisine to help them get through the long days. Lyon first made its mark on the French culinary scene in the 19th century, when the city was the center of the booming silk industry. Hungry silk workers clustered in tiny bistros, called “bouchons” to consume the robust, cheap fare necessary to carry them through their 18-hour work days. Then, bouchons were bare-bones, family-run establishments, sorely lacking in style and décor, but infused with a welcoming, home-style atmosphere (you can read more about it here). At this time the kitchens were mostly run by us girls. It took until the middle of the 20th Century for the men to take hold.
If you’re a carnivore, you’ll love Lyonnais bouchons. If you are a gastronaut, you’ll adore them. I’m Colombian, and as such, I am well accustomed to eating brains, intestines, tongue…I love all those wiggly little bits. The Lyonnais are not shy when it comes to offal. At your typical bouchon you can expect:
- Andouille (grilled chitterlings sausage)
- Boudin noir (blood sausage – very different than Colombian Morcilla, but just as tasty)
- Cervelle de canut “brains of the silk-weaver” made of cream cheese, garlic, and chives.
- Gateau de volaille (chicken liver “cake”)
- Groins d’âne (“donkey snout” salad)
- Quenelles (flour, egg and cream dumplings usually filled with fish like Pike)
- Tripe (pig or cow’s stomach).
When you go to your first Bouchon, just order the Lyonnaise plate. It will come with a selection of these delicious bits…and you can gross out your travel companion.
If you aren’t as adventurous as I am, you don’t need to worry. Paul Bocuse is king in Lyon and Nouvelle Cuisine is his queen. He made French Cuisine elegant, lighter, and more refined. Heck, the Bocuse d’Or which is the most coveted award for chefs in the world is named after him. And, lucky for you and me, Bocuse is still alive and cooking, so you can head to one of his restaurants and have the meal of a lifetime. On top of this, you can head over to Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse. This is the mother of all food markets. I went there on an almost daily basis when I was in Lyon (Seriously, you can check my Foursquare check ins). It is located near the Part Dieu train station and you can fill almost all your stomach’s desires there (if you want a proper accounting of everything you can get here, check out this post). If you have a kitchen, you can pick up goodies to make stuff at home. If you don’t just pick one of the many restaurants in Les Halles. You won’t go wrong.
You can also check out the Farmer’s market, it takes place on Saturday mornings along the Saône river in Vieux Lyon. You can enjoy some very well priced oysters, lots of produce, and go home full and happy.
****YOU MUST GET FOIE GRAS MACAROONS AT LES HALLES – YOUR MIND WILL BE BLOWN!
Restaurants: You need to dine out while you are in Lyon. Start saving up. While there are some lovely and inexpensive places, if you are in the Culinary capital of the world…you may as well eat at the best restaurants. That being said…unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg, I recommend these lovely establishments (and their estimated pricing):
- Le Garage – 20€ lunch, 26€ Menu Lyonnaise
- L’Ame Soeur - 44€ Dinner (5 courses)
- Le Jean Moulin – 20€ Lunch
- Brasserie Léon de Lyon – 21€ Lunch
- L’Ourson qui Boit – 14€ Lunch
- Les Halles de Paul Bocuse – pricing will vary depending on where you eat. You will not go wrong with any restaurant here.
UNESCO: I love UNESCO sites. Every UNESCO site that I have visited, I have loved. Lyon was made a UNESCO site in 1998. Lyon was originally a Roman city (there are ruins there that you can visit). UNESCO says that Lyon was inducted “by virtue of the special way in which it has developed spatially, Lyon illustrates in an exceptional way the progress and evolution of architectural design and town planning over many centuries.”
Transportation: Lyon has awesome an transportation system
- Métro (A.K.A. TLC) – There are four lines which makes it particularly easy to navigate.
- Trams & Trolleys – These are awesome. They are clean, fast and easy to take. There are four lines. When you hop on, make sure to validate your ticket.
- Funicular – There are only 2 funiculars in Lyon. You’ll most likely use the line to Fourvière
- Bus – These are meant more for going out of Lyon. I’d skip these if possible. Besides, I almost got killed by one last time I was in Lyon.
- Velo’v – It’s Lyon’s bike share system. Super fun and really convenient. There are Velo’v stations almost everywhere.
Museums: Lyon has some kick ass museums. My favorite is the Musee Gadagne. It is a puppet/marionette museum. So freakin’ cool. It is in this amazing Renaissance building and holds some of the coolest Marionettes I have ever seen. This to me is not to be missed. There is also the Gallo-Roman museum. If you’re into Roman art and history (like I am), this is your spot. There are way more museums in Lyon, but these are two you should not miss.
Function: Lyon works. The city is safe, beautiful, and full of character. It is a “young” city, and its youth is happy and functional. Unlike other French cities, the internet is quite fast. You can easily get from a-b without effort. This is an easy city to settle into, you’ll see.
How to get to Lyon
Planes: Fly to Paris. Hang out there for a few days and let the jet lag work its way out of your system. Then you can either fly to Lyon’s airport (Saint-Exupéry Airport) takes about an hour. You can also take a TVG train to Lyon’s Gare (takes about 2 hours and it is way more pleasant).
Where to Stay in Lyon
I do not like hotels in Lyon. They are fine, but meh. I found a lovely apartment a few blocks from Les Halles on Airbnb. It was in walking distance to everything. Fantastic hosts. Just don’t try to book it during my next trip or we’ll have some issues,